Kia Rio named 'Car of the Year'
The Kia Rio is the Continental Irish Car of the Year for 2012, marking the first time that a Korean car brand has taken the title in the 35-year history of the awards. Declan O’Byrne spent the week, prior to the awards ceremony, assessing the car’s credentials.
There’s a certain, undeniable cache to driving the latest cars to hit the roads and it’s never more satisfying than when one gets to sit behind the wheel of one that’s picked as the best of the bunch, in any year, in the very week that it’s accorded the accolade.
That was the happy coincidence as Galway Independent Motoring was afforded the opportunity, prior to last week’s awards ceremony in Dublin, to put the latest creation of the burgeoning Korean carmaker through its paces.
The Rio came out on top of the pile in the view of a jury comprised of members of the awards’ organisers, the Irish Motoring Writers Association (IMWA).
Clearly, when you consider the result of their deliberations and the narrow margin of victory, the Rio 5-door was up against seriously stiff competition.
It eventually triumphed with 181 points, just five ahead of the Ford Focus (176), followed in third place by the Peugeot 508 (165). It was success on the double for the Rio – apart from taking the overall title, it was also selected as the winner in the Irish Small Car category.
In taking the major title, it succeeds the 2011 winner, the Nissan Juke.
The other category winners this year were the Ford Focus, Compact Family Car of the Year; the Peugeot 508, which scooped the Family Car of the Year title; the stunning Range Rover Evoque, the Executive/Luxury Car of the Year; and the Mercedes Benz SLK which topped the Performance Car category.
In the judging process, points were awarded on the basis of criteria ranging from innovation and safety, to space, comfort, build quality, driving quality and value for money.
Presenting the main award to James Brooks, Managing Director, Kia Ireland, Paddy Murphy of sponsor, Continental Tyres Ireland, said it would provide “a badge of honour” for the Korean car maker, while the victory was “a measure of the progress which Korean manufacturers have made on the car market in a very short time".
Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Crafter was voted Continental Irish Van of the Year 2012. The Crafter, with 44 points, finished ahead of the Fiat Ducato EU5 on 38 and the Fiat Doblo Workup on 29.
In determining that result, the IMWA judging panel voted on the basis of value-for-money, reliability, versatility and lasting residual value.
Presenting the award to Niall Phillips of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Ireland, Paddy Murphy described the van as “a worthy winner, which was well suited to the needs of Ireland's commercial vehicle operators”. The Crafter succeeded last year’s winner, the Mercedes Benz Vito.
But, back to the star of last week’s show, the Kia Rio, which is now available here in a range that comprises the 1.25-litre LX petrol with a CO2 value of 119 and priced at €15,295; the 1.25 EX petrol (119), the model tested, expected to account for up to 70 per cent of sales here and priced at €16,495; and a 1.4RX diesel version (113) for €17,895.
All fall into the €104 Tax Band A category, while the prices don’t include delivery and other related charges, or the cost of metallic paint.
From the outside, there’s no denying the Rio is a good looker; the test car, with revamped front grille, stands proud on 16-inch alloys, its long wheelbase giving it a stature not so immediately evident in some of its rivals in the highly-competitive supermini B-segment of the market.
By marrying a sharp and sporty design, akin to the Ford Fiesta, with the strength and solidity of, say, the Volkswagen Polo the Rio’s appeal is greatly enhanced.
Among other rivals are stable mate Hyundai’s i20, the Toyota Yaris and the Renault Clio.
All round, the Rio is an attractive package. There is little difference in the generally high specification between the cheaper LX and the slightly more expensive EX model.
The EX has electric folding door mirrors and all-round electric windows but any other omissions in the LX are cosmetic, both versions having excellent sound systems with iPod and MP3 disk capability remote controls on the steering wheel. There’s also Bluetooth connectivity, to mention just some of an array of equipment.
Both models also have air conditioning while they also share safety features like air bags - front, side and curtain - and electronic stability control is standard.
For what’s deemed to be a small car, the cabin is airy and spacious, with ample legroom in the front, if a little restricted in the rear. Instrumentation is uncluttered and easy to operate while improved hood insulation keeps road, tyre and wind noise to a minimum.
Gear change was a little clunky while steering was as light as a feather without posing any danger of slippage.
In city driving the suspension coped reasonably well, with rough urban surfaces, which incidentally appear in these cash-strapped times to be becoming increasingly common, while, on the motorway, the Rio had ample power and delivered a smooth and comfortable ride.
There is 288 litres of luggage space in the boot, while 60:40 split seats in the rear create even more room when required. Apart from competitive pricing, when you add in frugal fuel consumption, a high level of equipment and that loudly heralded seven-year Kia warranty, it’s unlikely to come as any surprise to find this much more dynamic and stylish Rio on the bestsellers’ list over the next 12 months.